Until 2011 Female Crash Test Dummies Were Not Required

Women’s rights advocates have long fought to break through the glass ceiling, but an important moment occurred last year when female crash test dummies broke through a metaphorical glass windshield.

Until 2011 models, auto companies testing collisions were only required to use the standard crash test dummy, which is based on the anatomy of a male. Starting with 2011 models, MSN reports that auto makers now must use the more petite female crash test dummy as well when testing front end collisions.

Advocates for driver safety have argued for years that designing cars to be crash-safe based solely on the anatomy of male occupants posed risks for smaller female occupants. The standard male test dummy is designed to be the average American male, but the average American male is larger than the average American female. When an airbag is deployed, optimal design would have it strike the occupant in the chest, but shorter drivers could be struck in the chin or face, causing injury.

It took until the 1960s for crash test dummies to really see widespread use but didn’t become a standard procedure until 1973. Ever since, the standard dummy has been based on a male. Car makers argued that the male dummy was close enough, representing most of the population in body type. They said making a smaller, female dummy would be time consuming and cost ineffective.

The Chicago Tribune reports that studies show women are nearly three times as likely as their average male counterparts to be seriously injured or killed in a crash. Another study found that women wearing seat belts were 47 percent more likely to be hurt than their male counterparts.

So, while the change for female crash test dummies might have been a long time coming, its also a case of better late than never as now more drivers’ safety will be considered in automotive design.